Jim and Keely had promised each other they’d travel together for almost three decades. Life circumstances and a terrible accident put their plans on hold. But in 2022, they were able to fulfil their promise to each other for their 28th wedding anniversary, taking their dream trip to Italy.
Jim and Keely share their story in their Trafalgar Unlocked Awards entry
“The first time we traveled internationally was a Trafalgar tour to Ireland on our honeymoon in 1994. It was unforgettable and we knew we would have to come back, but being educators we never had much money to travel, so we promised ourselves we would book another Trafalgar tour for our 20th anniversary. That came and went, and life’s circumstances kept us from traveling.
“We promised we would do so on our 25th anniversary, and a few months before we were going to book the travel, Jim was in a terrible accident, which had him hospitalized and then in rehabilitation for more than a year. Finally, as our 28th anniversary came close, we booked our dream trip – nearly three weeks in Italy, the Grand Italian Experience plus we added several days at the end in Rome.
“We can’t say what the best part of the trip was. Every day was special as we saw things we’ve always read about and seen pictures of (we’re avid history and art buffs) but had never had a chance to see. One of the most special moments was in the Villa Borghese, we were moved to tears while taking in Bernini’s statue of Pluto and Persephone, both from the beauty of it and out of gratitude that we finally had a chance to see it in real life. We also cherished a meal at a farmhouse in Sorrento where we watched them make mozzarella and we then made pizzas. One thing is certain, we won’t be waiting another 28 years to book with Trafalgar!”
Trafalgar Unlocked Awards
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We reached out to past guests Jim and Keely to find out more about their special trip to Italy, why it’s important to travel together, and where they’re heading next.
Want to discover the Balkans for yourself? If you’re a Trafalgar past guest, all you need to do is share your most memorable Trafalgar moment with us for the chance to win, all thanks to the Trafalgar Unlocked Awards. Click here to discover more.
Where do you call home?
We’ve been together in Kansas for three decades, currently living in Lawrence. Jim is a lifelong Kansan though Keely, being from a military family, lived in a half dozen places in her youth including Hawaii and Germany.
How did you two meet?
We met at a picnic for graduate students, starting our studies to be school psychologists. Jim pulled up on his motorcycle, sporting a leather jacket and with lush hair waving in the breeze, which Keely later acknowledged “knocked my socks off”. The hair and motorcycle are long gone, but the rest is history.
Why did you choose Italy as your dream trip for your 28th anniversary?
Jim has always been a history buff, especially ancient civilizations, and we both love nothing better than art, culture and food. For people who’ve not traveled much, Italy seemed to hit the trifecta!
EXPERIENCE IT: Grand Italian Experience
You talked about your experiences at the Villa Borghese and the farmhouse in Sorrento. What are some other special moments from your Italy tour that you still talk about to this day?
Our tour arrived in Milan on the day of a marathon, which had closed most road traffic. Our tour director frantically worked the phone, and before you know it we found ourselves being expertly ushered into the heart of the city via subway, during rush hour. We ran to see the spectacular Duomo di Milano, a unique gothic cathedral. We admired the amazing architecture and art within and then climbed to the roof to take in the famous pinnacles and spires and flying buttresses. As we were so engrossed, we lost track of time, until suddenly realizing we were supposed to meet back up with our group in 10 minutes, but were lost in that huge rooftop maze overlooking the city! We frantically worked to find our exit and rejoined our group without a problem. It was a grand adventure!
One of our favorite moments was after spending the day immersed in the amazing sites in lively Venice. We took a boat to our amazing hotel in nearby Murano. It was the most perfect and romantic spot! It was so quiet, we felt like we had the place to ourselves. We found ourselves on a bridge at night, with the ancient city and water illuminated by dim lights, looking out over the lagoon. We wanted that magical moment to go on forever.
What drew you to Ireland for your honeymoon? What were some of the unforgettable moments from that trip?
Keely’s family has Irish roots, and Jim had always wanted to see the UK, so it was the perfect place to go. Our trip took us through England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Some of our favorite memories include the beauty of Bath, England, touring Edinburgh castle, and the astounding beauty of the Irish countryside. For part of our trip, there was apparently a heat wave. As Kansans, we still chuckle when recalling the signage as we left our Scottish hotel one morning, “Today’s weather: HOT. High of 68°F.” (20
Keely’s family has Irish roots, and Jim had always wanted to see the UK, so it was the perfect place to go. Our trip took us through England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Some of our favorite memories include the beauty of Bath, England, touring Edinburgh castle, and the astounding beauty of the Irish countryside. For part of our trip, there was apparently a heat wave. As Kansans, we still chuckle when recalling the signage as we left our Scottish hotel one morning, “Today’s weather: HOT. High of 68°F.” (20°C)
EXPERIENCE IT: Britain and Ireland Panorama
You took your first international trip together to Ireland nearly 30 years ago. How has traveling with Trafalgar changed since then?
We’ve only traveled twice internationally, so didn’t really note much that had changed with the travel. As far as touring with Trafalgar recently, it was fairly similar to our experience 28 years ago, which is the sincerest compliment we can offer. For our trip in 1994, the tour director shared her great expertise throughout, the driver astounded us with his skills, the hotels were terrific, and it was tremendous value. We always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, for instance, arriving at a site just ahead of a crowd, or being ushered to the front of a line. We know a lot of skill and planning goes into that! Because of the earlier experience, we knew if we traveled again we would choose Trafalgar.
The Italian tour actually exceeded the high bar set on our first trip! What they did even better was that we had more opportunities to meet locals, for instance at a meal at a farmhouse where they made fresh mozzarella and everything served was grown on site. And they often pulled in local tour guides, which made our visits to historic sites even richer.
Why was it important for you to travel together?
To say this was a special trip together is an understatement, and not just because we rarely travel. We had it in the calendar for the summer of 2016, but it was in December 2015 that Jim had his terrible accident. What followed was more than two years of endless appointments, therapy and rehabilitation. That ordeal was a strong reminder to us of how short life is and to take as big a bite of it while you can. One of our promises to each other during that difficult time is to be less serious about life, have more fun, and travel more frequently.
What do you love most about traveling together?
It’s a wonderful way to get away from the routine and stress of life, and in a way to become reacquainted with each other. Couples often don’t make enough time to focus on themselves and their relationships, and new experiences are one of the best ways to connect to your partner. Also, we’re both avid cooks, especially of Italian cuisine. So getting to eat the authentic dishes we’d been trying to master for years was a lot of fun!
RELATED BLOG: Beyond Dubrovnik and Sarajevo: 10 off-the-radar Balkan towns to explore with Trafalgar
With our Trafalgar Unlocked Awards you can win 2 places on our Balkan Delight tour. If you won, where would you be most excited to visit in the Balkans?
If we won, it would be an anniversary trip together. There are such diverse cultures in the Balkans, and beautiful scenery and sites, it’s hard to say what we’re most excited to see. Visits to Zagreb, Montenegro and the Bay of Kotor, and the cliffs of the Dalmatian coast are high on the list!
ENTER THE COMPETITION: Trafalgar Unlocked Awards
EXPERIENCE IT: Balkan Delight
Where will you travel next? What other destinations are on your bucket list?
Visiting with the frequent travelers on our trip to Italy – they universally suggested their Trafalgar tour of Spain and Portugal was a favorite, so that’s next for us! Then, France! With our love of history, culture, art, and food, we can’t wait for our next adventure with Trafalgar.
Have you entered our Trafalgar Unlocked Awards contest? It’s easy – if you’re a past guest of Trafalgar, just share a favourite memory with us.